What It Means to be a Multicultural Family

What is a multicultural family? And what does it mean to be a multicultural family? What are the different types of multicultural families? These are the types of questions that we are going to dive into within this article.

What does Multicultural mean?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “multicultural” in the United States means relating to a number of different cultures, while British English defined it as something relating to or including people from different cultures.

However, in modern society, “Multicultural” is often described as someone, a place, or a situation that consists or relates to many nationalities, cultures, and several races.

The Face of a Multicultural Family?

Living in the era of globalization, intermarriage is becoming increasingly common. Couples growing up from a diverse background that shares different cultures and speak different languages are starting to create their own hybrid family identity

A multicultural family is a miniature version of the world cultures.

Does having immigrant parents or grandparents, working internationally, or living in a multicultural city make you, your partner and children a multicultural family?

Families become multicultural in one of two ways 

  • Internally: through intermarriage/partnership or adoptions
  • Externally: through relocation by moving from one culture to another.

Here are a few examples of internally multicultural families: 

Interracial Family

An interracial family is a form of a family involving members who belong to different races or ethnicities group. Interracial families do not necessarily mean the family has a “multicultural mind,” as in some places, different ethnic groups can be found in a region but share the same cultural beliefs.

Interracial Family Example - Multicultural Families

Parents: Daniel Busquets and Hsin Chen
Children: Luana Busquets and Maya Busquets
Nationalities: Brazil, Spain, Taiwan, and the USA.
Country of Current Residence: Spain
Languages: English, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan

Third-Culture Kids

Third culture kids are people raised in a culture other than their parents or their country of nationality for a significant part of their early development years. These people are often a multicultural individual. 

Third Culture Kids Example - Multicultural Families

Parents: Bibo Chee and Gladys Wong
Children: Asher Chee and Oliver Chee
Nationalities: British, Canadian, Australian and Hong Kong
Country of Current Residence: Hong Kong
Languages: English, Cantonese, Mandarin

Intercultural Family 

Intercultural marriage is a couple involving numerous cultures and backgrounds. Parents may have moved multiple times to different cultures or experience various cultures growing up. 

Intercultural Family Example - Multicultural Families

Parents: Cassio Parente and Karina Busquets
Children: Chloe Busquets Parente and Bella Busquets Parente
Nationalities: Brazil, Spain, and Italy
Country of Current Residence: United Kingdom
Languages: Portuguese, English, Spanish, Italian, and Catalan

“Multicultural family” can also be a family of transracial or transcultural adoption. In short, internally multicultural families are formed by intimate relationships among family members. While the externally multicultural family is described as a family living in a multicultural society, and in some other cases, is referring to as a global mindset family that can adapt in between cultures effectively. 

Multicultural families can be explained in various ways, but the one most common element among all of us is we have high exposure to diversity and embrace multiculturalism.

What does it mean to be a Multicultural Family?

There are many benefits of being a multicultural family, but there are also many challenges.

Finding a balance between two or more cultures

Culture shapes the most profound parts of us, and it certainly influences our value systems. A multicultural family seems to start from a romantic international love story. But in reality, there are at least two sets of cultural beliefs that try to form a harmony in the relationship. Naturally, there will be significant challenges to face. 

The beginning of the multicultural family’s journey feels like experimenting with two people from various cultural backgrounds trying to get along together peacefully. 

If marriage is about compromising, a multicultural family often faced situations where the beliefs and values that lie beneath the surface are extremely tough to compromise, for example, religion and family traditions. 

Communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy family relationship, and culture plays a vital role in shaping the communication style! A multicultural family involves at least two different communication styles. Without a doubt, it requires a steep learning curve to adapt and create effective communication.

In a multicultural family, we are fortunate to have multiple cultures to explore. As the family grows, parents want to pass on our values and traditions to children. However, many questions have arisen. If a multicultural family is a melting pot of the world, then what’s the recipe for raising multicultural kids? 

  • Where should we live? 
  • How do you teach religion? 
  • What is the family’s primary language? 
  • How to select an education system? 
  • Implement an eastern or western parenting style?  
  • Which family cultures and traditions to pass on?
  • We don’t live close to our family. How to stay connected with our extended oversea family? 

Being a multicultural family means finding a balance between cultural values and beliefs. It’s an art and science relationship, it’s complex, but once you can find the balance. The whole world is ahead of you!

Bringing the Global Mindset to family

A multicultural family may have more experience living in different countries and societies, and it means that we are offered numerous perspectives to see things and situations in a global context. 

The best part about being a multicultural family is that we tend to be more open-minded to new cultural experiences, and it helps us to develop into a global mindset family. Being a global mindset family, it impacts on how we see and perceive the world, and our mind often creates the size of the world.

A multicultural family means being open to diversity, bringing a global mindset to family and living in a world in mind.

Not about fit-in, it’s about truly belonged

A multicultural family tries to fit in because we desperately want to find a “home.” 

A multilingual family may have accents, and a multiracial family has mixed features.

Multicultural families are continuously searching for a place that we genuinely feel belongs to, even if it doesn’t seem like we are originally from there. We work hard to develop a sense of our role in the world and build a family identity.

Parents in a multicultural family try to retain, pass down, and celebrate our unique cultures to children. We share lifestyles, languages, art, and traditions to our multicultural kids, but we encourage the kids to develop their self-identity without needing to choose sides.

Many have said that multicultural families live in a grey zone, I would instead define us as chameleons, we are capable of changing our cultural colors to match with the surroundings, and yet still able to create our little world! 

“If you feel like you don’t fit into the world you inherited it is because you were born to help create a new one.” – Ross Caligiuri, Dreaming in the Shadows.

Beyond the Binary 

A multicultural family can feel and look at the world from multiple different angles, most likely in a conflicting way as well. A multicultural family can adapt to a situation where we find conflicts and make it work as a family.

For example, my husband is Brazilian, and Brazilian is known for being friendly, festive, and late! Yes, Late! I would say arriving on time for a Brazilian party is almost as awkward as showing up to a party you weren’t invited to! On the other hand, I value punctuality. In fact, being late is disrespectful in my culture. After more than 10 years of relationship, every time when we need to go out as a family, I still try to leave home and get to the destination on time. While my Brazilian husband is always taking his time and say “relax! It’s okay. Come on” 

A multicultural family means having the ability to look past the cultural conflict and try to understand with respect.  

EIGHT Fun Facts about Multicultural Family: 

1. We are confused by our multilingual channels sometimes and get languages mixed up. Portuguese speaking father ends up speaking Chinese. 

2. We ask kids to translate each other’s language.

3. We have more than one accent floating in the house.

4. We have multicultural taste! Our fridge usually contained diverse food options. 

5. We have a multicultural drawer, containing a pile of passports and “multicultural legal documents” such as birth certificates and marriage certificates in notarize in various locations and translated in multiple languages.

6. We always experience awkward moments when both sides of the family meet when East meets west!

7. We have a multicultural calendar! Whether it’s religious or non-religious holidays, sometimes we see the importance of celebrating and sometimes we celebrate just for the sake of influence, such as carnival.

8. We feel extra welcome when visiting our hometown. Going home is always high energy and celebrative.

What does a multicultural family mean to you?

Now you have read the definition of a multicultural family and some examples, what does a multicultural family mean to you?

Author: Hsin is a third-culture kid from Taiwan. Her husband was raised in a mixed Brazilian-Catalan family, and they have 2 daughters. As cross-culture parents, they want to establish family values of our own and embrace multiculturalism. They moved 11,000 km from Taiwan to Barcelona where they are now based. Hsin writes at Nanani World.